Many people put everything they own in joint ownership with others so that, at death, no probate court proceedings are required for the other joint owner to have full ownership and control of the assets. “Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship” titling does avoid probate as ownership passes by operation of law to the surviving joint owner, but it should be used carefully.
Your Will does not control who will own jointly-owned assets following your death. That means that even with a carefully thought out “written plan” (a Will) directing how you want what you own at death to pass, any assets in joint names will not be governed by that plan.
Another reason people put someone else’s name on their assets as joint owner is to give them access to those assets in case of incapacity of the original owner. A better plan may be to give them a power of attorney which gives them access to your assets and the ability to use them for your benefit if you become incapacitated without making them a joint owner
Putting others’ names on your assets as joint owner makes them just that…an owner with rights in those assets. That could result in those assets being subject to the claims of that other joint owner’s creditors, if he or she gets into some kind of legal or financial difficulty.
And, if the other joint owner dies first you might be taxed on receiving your own assets back from the other joint owner at their death, depending on their relationship to you.
As with all other aspects of estate stewardship, use of joint tenancy should be planned.
The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.